The announcement today by Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore, Marilyn J. Mosby of numerous charges brought against the six officers purportedly involved in the death of Freddie Gray is rich in political theater and shockingly lacking in evidence of criminal malfeasance.

The full press conference video is at our prior post.

A solid foundation for this having been a partisan political, rather than reasoned legal, decision is laid out succinctly by the counsel for the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police who noted:

While I have the utmost respect for you and your office, I have very deep concerns about the many conflicts of interest presented by your office conducting an investigation in this case . . . . These conflicts include your personal and professional relationship with Gray family attorney, William Murphy and the lead prosecutor’s connections with members of the local media. . . . Most importantly, it is clear that your husband’s political future will be directly impacted, for better or worse, by the outcome of your investigation. . . . In order to avoid any appearance of impropriety or a violation of the Professional Rules of Professional Responsibility, I ask that you appoint a Special Prosecutor to determine whether or not any charges should be filed.

Gray family lawyer William Murphy is reported by the Baltimore Sun newspaper to have contributed $5,000 to Prosecutor Mosby’s political campaign.

Prosecutor Mosby’s husband, a city council member, has been prominently present at the riots, and commenting on them in a manner suggesting that the acts of violence are understandable:

Prosecutor Mosby promptly refused the call for an independent prosecutor, stating:

The people of Baltimore City elected me and there is no accountability with a special prosecutor.

In addition, the New York Times recounting of the charges specified by Ms. Mosby seems both inconsistent and contradictory, as well as largely lacking in specifying actual criminal conduct.

For example, shortly after the van began to transport Gray, Officer Goodson, the driver, “proceeded to the back of the wagon in order to observe Mr. Gray.”

A short while later, Goodson called a dispatcher to say that he needed help checking on his prisoner, leading to the arrival of a second officer and another observation of Gray.

Mosby states that Gray told the officers he could not breath, but of course if he was speaking he was necessarily breathing.

Mosby also makes a point of claiming of Goodson: “At no point did he seek, nor did he render, any medical help for Mr. Gray.”

But we know, from Mosby’s account just recited above, the Goodson did seek help for Gray, and of course Gray was still alive when medical care was shortly thereafter provided (Gray would not die for some days after the van ride).

In terms of Goodson providing medical aid to Gray himself, was Goodson appropriately trained and skilled to do so? Was providing such aid a normal part of his job? Was he an EMT?  For a rather major point of condemnation of Goodson, Mosby seems to provide little evidence that Goodson had either a legal duty or the necessary skill and training to personally provide Gray with medical care.

Indeed, it appears that no police officer ever attempted to provide Gray with any medical assistance at all, that first being provided by a trained medic when Gray was found to be unresponsive.  Is every police officer who had any contact with Gray at all during that transport guilty of criminal malfeasance?

Mosby goes on to characterize as “grossly negligent” Goodson’s accepting a radio assignment to pick up another suspect in the van, in light of Gray’s obvious and recognized need for assistance.

Hindsight, of course, is 20:20.  But all indications are that Gray was largely functional when he first entered the van, and grew progressively worse during the 30 minute or so ride.

As the New York Times notes, “Mr. Gray’s condition deteriorated.” At what point in that ride was Gray’s need for assistance so obvious and recognized that Goodson’s failure to do something unspecified constitutes gross negligence?

Is it the policy of the Baltimore Police Department that its prisoner transport vans must cease accepting new assignments and immediately divert to a hospital whenever a suspect being transported requests medical assistance?

It seems clear that the officers involved certainly did violate Baltimore police policy when they failed to secure Gray inside the van with a seatbelt.  But absent a demonstrated knowledge that they were likely to be involved in a vehicular crash it seems quite a stretch, to say the least, to draw criminal malfeasance from what one suspects to be a policy more honored in the breach than the observance.

Indeed, even Ms. Mosby herself “did not allege that the van driver, Officer Caesar R. Goodson, Jr., intentionally gave Mr. Gray a ‘rough ride, to slam him against the metal walls of the van” according to New York Times reporting on Mosby’s announcement of the charges.

And that, appears to be that, the substantive totality of evidence in Mosby’s recitation of facts in support of bring 28 criminal charges against a half-dozen police officers, (at least as far as reported by the New York Times, ABC News, and the Baltimore Sun):

Freddie Gray charges

Frankly, it strikes me as even less of a foundation for the charges brought here than was the evidentiary foundation for the second degree murder charge brought by Florida Prosecutor Angela Corey against George Zimmerman in the self-defense shooting of Trayvon Martin.

And we all remember how that ended:  Zimmerman Verdict Reached: NOT GUILTY.

–-Andrew, @LawSelfDefense


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Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog (autographed copies available) and Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle). He also holds Law of Self Defense Seminars around the country, and provides free online self-defense law video lectures at the Law of Self Defense Institute and podcasts through iTunes, Stitcher, and elsewhere.